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New FAFSA deadline raises questions

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is undergoing a few alternations that will be put into action for next academic year. As all Rollins students know, the FAFSA is one of the quintessential steps of going to college. It is required for all students who will attend a higher education institution that accepts and awards financial aid, and while there are schools that do not, they are incredibly rare. The FAFSA, therefore, is much more than a simple right of passage; it is often one of the reasons low-income students can go to college. All changes the FAFSA undergoes are worth taking note of as they could affect the amount of financial aid students receive.

Students applying for 2017-2018 can submit their FAFSA on October 1 rather than the later date of January 1, a full three extra months in advance. This earlier date change will be permanent, allowing students and parents to submit earlier income and tax information. To learn more about the FAFSA and to find out how the changes would affect students, I contacted Marguerite Jacobs, Associate Director of the Financial Aid Office at Rollins.

How do you feel it will affect incoming students, and will it affect current students?

“This allows the families of new students an additional amount of time to compare and contrast financial aid offers from the various schools they are considering. The earlier opening of the application will be advantageous to the continuing student as well since the application window is open for a longer period of time.”

What do you think is the most important thing to know about the FAFSA?

“The most important thing to know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is that you should never pay anything to anyone when applying for aid. The application is free. Be cautious to use the site ending in .gov and not .com. The .com site makes you pay to use it and it is not the official government site. Also don’t pay an individual to file the form for you; it is often done incorrectly and will need to be verified or corrected. Members of the Financial Aid Office will gladly assist with any questions for free.”

What aspects do many students struggle with?

“Applicants struggle with the size and scope of the application, as well as the FSA ID creation for electronic signatures. The questions are not difficult, and there is a lot of help text as you hover over the questions. When in doubt, contact the Financial Aid Office for assistance.”

Will the FAFSA being available earlier alleviate some of the previous problems?

“There is one major problem that will be alleviated with the new application, and that concerns the tax year being used for the financial data questions. For 2017-18, you will be using the tax return data from 2015. Even the families that file for a tax return extension should have their taxes filed and ready to be imported due to this important change.”

The most important knowledge to come away with, is that if you need help, Rollins has kind and friendly faculty who are more than willing to help you succeed, all you have to do is ask.

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